Ongoing Legal Battle Between Paramount, ‘Star Trek’ Fans Reaches Thrilling Conclusion
When we last checked in with the evolving lawsuit that Paramount and CBS filed against the creators of Star Trek fan film Axanar, things weren’t looking so hot for DIY producer Alec Peters. In a ruling chockablock with Trek puns, the judge declared that a jury of Peters’ peers would be responsible for determining whether his film infringed upon Paramount’s legal copyrights in terms of actual people, places, and things (“objective substantial similarity”) as well as overall spirit and feel of the Star Trek franchise (“subjective substantial similarity”). I’m no legal professional, but even this layman could see pretty plainly that Peters’ ass was legal grass, and Paramount was preparing to mow it.
It should come as no surprise, then, that the Wrap announced Friday afternoon that an agreement has been reached between Peters and the Paramount/CBS litigation behemoth. Peters has agreed to settle out of court, conceding that he’ll recut Axanar with “substantial changes,” and that moving forward, both he and other Trekkie cineastes will follow Paramount’s specifically enumerated guidelines to making a fan film and not getting hauled into court. Paramount and CBS offered the following statement, with the air of self-satisfied victory only faintly detectable:
“Paramount and CBS continue to be big believers in fan fiction and fan creativity... They encourage amateur filmmakers to showcase their passion for Star Trek. Paramount and CBS will not object to, or take legal action against, Star Trek fan productions that are non-professional, amateur, and otherwise meet the Guidelines, which can be found at http://www.startrek.com/fan-films. Paramount and CBS would like Star Trek fans, with their boundless creativity and passion, to ‘Live Long and Prosper.’”
Axanar Productions, Peters’ newly established company, has a few words to say as well. They’ll be permitted to continue showing their Axanar prequel Prelude to Axanar on YouTube and will even be allowed to use the million-plus dollars they originally raised on two 15-minute shorts that will also show on YouTube. Though their ability to make money has been effectively eliminated, their statement evinced optimism and positivity for the future. (Still, I like to imagine it being read through gritted teeth.)
Axanar Productions was created by lifelong Star Trek fans to celebrate their love for Star Trek... Alec Peters and the Axanar team look forward to continuing to share the Axanar story and are happy to work within the Guidelines for Fan Films for future projects. Throughout this process, we will continue communicating with our fans and backers to ensure they are informed and involved until we reach completion of the production.
A thrilling to conclusion to one of the more notable showbiz court cases in recent years, and a curious precedent for future fan-film hopefuls. With Paramount’s rules for fair-play fan filmmaking now public knowledge, it’s easy to make your own Star Trek spinoff, but harder than ever to make a buck doing it.